Thoughts on rugby from Hunter Mabon Senior

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Brisbane Ladies 7s Results

Hype meets reality in Brisbane. Billed as one of the great sevens tournaments it proved to be something less than that. A completely incoherent presentation of schedules and results made it almost impossible to follow what was happening. When the smoke cleared, Australia with a much bigger squad beat Fiji in the final 24 – 10, while Sweden as far as I can see finished in 11th/12th position, a bit lower than at least I had hoped for.

Sweden started off in a pool along with England, South Africa and Papua New Guinea (PPG). The Sunshine Coast unfortunately provided pouring rain for Day 1 and this obviously detracted from the playing standard. England with a strong team outclassed Sweden 40 – 0 in their first game. In the second one quite a strong South African team dominated for long periods but good Swedish tackling kept the score to 12 – 5. Sweden put up a much better performance in their final match on Day 1, beating PNG 32 – 0. Some strong running from several Swedish players. The games against SA and PNG were both screened, but not I think the English game. Sweden defended well against SA, but their attacking was non-existent. Dropped passes and aimless kicking especially in the second half meant that they remained pinned in their own half. Their one try came from a fine outside break by Tova. They proved physically stronger than PNG, however, and five different try scorers showed what they could do.

These results put Sweden in the 9 – 16 group for Day 2, when the weather was much better. They started off against Poland whom they have battled against in Europe  and did well to win 20 – 12. Not streamed so no details. They then met Macquarrie University, in the SF of the Bowl  one of the four Aussie teams bringing the number of participating teams up to 16. Each of these teams fielded youngish players, although Macquarrie were perhaps the pick of the bunch. Sweden started of well and were up 14 – 0 in no time. But then they seemed to collapse, their strong defence nowhere to be seen.  Macquarrie had a couple of speedsters and they scored at will thereafter, the final count being 38 – 14. This put Sweden 11th/12th  of 16 teams, probably below what they were hoping for..

Of the other long-distance travellers, Wales showed up quite well, primarily due to their outstanding winger Jasmine James. She also beat Sweden single-handed in the European GP last year. Macquarrie showed their worth once again by beating Wales 17 – 14 in the Bowl final.

Once again England started off well but then flattered to deceive. They lost 20 – 10 to a not very impressive French Development squad and missed out on the top four.  Then, against a useful Spanish side they only got home 12 – 10 in the dying seconds. They finished 5th,

Fiji, with a couple of powerful runners cruised along quite comfortably and made it to the final after beating Spain and French Development. The Australian Pearls, the Oz development team, started off on Day 1 with nothing like their national team but they had a large squad and gradually strengthened the team with a few top players throughout the tournament. They pulled away in the final to beat an exhausted Fijiana. Not exactly a level playing field, however. South Africa showed up and down form, but were still strong enough to take 3rd place in front of France Development.

Was it worth Sweden making this long and expensive trip? First of all we should be told who has paid for the trip. If the players made a substantial contribution themselves and only a small amount has come through the Union, then I think we could say it was just about worth it. Two wins out of five against strong opposition was not bad, although there was no evidence that the team could raise its game when required. If the selectively generous Union picked up the tab, it was not worth it and more typical of the hypocrisy with which the Union is riddled. Clarification, please!

Full Results

Pool A: South Africa 22-0 PNG; England 40-0 Sweden; South Africa 12-5 Sweden; England 57-0 PNG; Sweden 32-0 PNG; England 31-0 South Africa

Pool B: USA 19-5 Poland; France Development 31-0 Wales; USA 26-17 Wales; France Development 17-7 Poland; USA 22-5 France Development; Poland 10-33 Wales

Pool C: Fiji 24-7 QAS2; Australia 27-0 QAS1; Spain 39-0 Macquarrie; Japan 19-10 Tribe

Bowl/Shield: QAS2 0-27 Macquarrie; QAS1 15-5 Tribe; Sweden 20-12 Poland; PNG 7-22 Wales

Shield SF: Poland 24-5 QAS2; Tribe 21-24 PNG

Shield Final: Poland 22-10 PNG

Bowl SF: Macquarrie 38-14 Sweden; Wales 22-19 QAS1

Bowl Final: Macquarrie 17-14 Wales

Cup/Plate QF: Fiji 10-5 Spain; Australia 31-5 Japan; England 10-20 France Development; USA 19-21 South Africa

Plate SF: Spain 10-12 England; Japan 28-12 USA

Plate Final: England 45-10 Japan

Cup SF: Fiji 35-17 France Development; Australia 38-5 South Africa

Third place; South Africa 29-14 France Development

Final: Australia 24-10 Fiji


Ladies Seven in Australia

Plenty of smiling faces on the Union´s website, but as usual more or less nothing about the actual tournament in Brisbane. The HSBC World Series was played in Sydney last week and Brisbane is an attempt to piggy-back on the fact that the top twelve teams will already have made the long trip to Australia. The IB talks a good game when it comes to women´s rugby, but they are not so good when it comes to delivering results. The World Series has only managed to get together five tournaments for the 2017 – 2018 season (10 of course for the men) and it was a good idea by Queensland to add another weekend at near top level.
It was only last year Sweden could just scrape together the money to send a men´s team to one of the world´s leading 7s tournaments at Melrose, Scotland. Now it seems 200.000:- has suddenly appeared to finance this trip. The fiction is that the girls will be paying for the trip themselves but that is no doubt part of the secretive, fantasy world inhabited by the Swedish Union.

Not quite clear how the tournament as a whole is being financed. It is run by Queensland Rugby, no entry fee will be charged and there will be entertainment, fancy dress and funfairs. An attempt to popularise the sport, I imagine, and there´s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Eight of the 12 teams remain from the World Series in Sydney. New Zealand, Canada, Russia and Ireland have dropped out; all four were quarter-finalists in Sydney, leaving France, USA, Spain and Australia in action.
The bottom four in Sydney were PNG, England, Fiji and Japan, all now continuing in Brisbane. Newcomers: South Africa, Sweden, Poland and Wales.

The countries playing this weekend are thus: USA, Papua New Guinea, England, Spain, France (Development), South Africa, Sweden, Poland, Wales, Fiji, Japan and Australia. Not clear if it is France or a development team taking part.
The number of teams has been increased to 16 by the addition of a further four Australian teams, perhaps the real reason for the tournament. The matches are being played on two pitches and the tournament will be streamed live. Time difference Brisbane + 9 hours. So you´ll need to get up at three on Saturday morning if you want to watch the matches live.

The Swedish team is as follows:
Emilia Kristiansson (Murrayfield Wanderers)
Rebecca Kearney (Frankrike)
Victoria Peterson (Kalmar RK)
Carina Trinh (Stockholm Exiles RFC)
Emelie Hellgren (Richmond RFC)
Emma Skagerlind (Enköping RK)
Minnona Nunstedt (Vänersborg RK)
Mikaela Korpysz (Stockholm Exiles RFC)
Sanna Westman (Richmond RFC)
Sara Jacobsson (Malmö RK)
Tova Derk (Wasps)
Ylva Schwarts (Kalmar RK)

And the Sat./Sun schedule is:
Day 1:
12.00 USA vs Polen (A) Frankrike vs Wales (A)
12.22 Sydafrika vs PNG (B) England vs Sverige (B)
14.00 USA vs Wales (A) Frankrike vs Polen (A)
14.22 Sydafrika vs Sverige (B) England vs PNG (B)

14.44 (1) Fiji – Queensland Reds 2
15.06 (2) Spain vs Macquarrie
15.28 (3) Australien vs Queensland Reds 1
15.50 (4) Japan vs Tribe 7s

16.20 USA vs Frankrike (A)
16.42 Polen vs Wales (A)
17.06 Sverige vs PNG (B) Loser (1) vs Loser (2)
17.28 England vs Sydafrika (B) Winner (3) vs Winner (4)
18.56 Vinnare (1) vs Vinnare (2)
19.18 Vinnare (3) vs Vinnare (4)

Day 2 will be playoffs, leading to Shield, Plate, Bowl and Cup-tournaments. All teams should get five matches.

How will Sweden get on? Four of the better teams from the World Sevens are gone but easily the best team from that tournament, Australia, remains.
They didn´t concede a single point in their five matches, including beating New Zealand comfortably in the final.
Sweden are in Pool B, facing England, South Africa and PNG (Papua New Guinea). The latter two blow hot and cold, but at their best are excellent teams. The English team all have professional contracts, but embarrassingly for them they could only finish 9th in Sydney. Expect a reaction this weekend.

I would say Sweden have close to their 12 best players on show. They have pace and strength aplenty but judging from last year they have still a lot to learn when it comes to Seven´s technique. They will probably have to improve in these respects if they are to return to and retain their places at the European GP-level.
It will be seen that five of the Swedish girls are now playing abroad. As has been noted elsewhere there is almost no serious ladies´ rugby played in Sweden nowadays and we can only wish them the best of luck as they now play elsewhere.
It is difficult to judge where Sweden stand in this present company. I would hope for the odd surprise result but if they can finish in the top ten, I think they could be satisfied with the trip.

Dåligt omdöme!

Jag hade bestämt mig för att inte skriva om en känd landslagsman i rugby som i samband med den aktuella debatten figurerat i hemska skildringar av sexuella trakasserier och misshandel avseende ett flertal unga kvinnor. Han har fått lämna sin anställning och det är tveksamt om och när han kommer att erbjudas en ny.

Min förhoppning var att han aldrig mera skulle förekomma i rugbysammanhang och att han snabbt skulle falla i glömska utan att tillföra sporten ytterligare skada.

Men nu ser jag att han förekommer i ett svenskt lag som åker till Dubai i dagarna. Detta är illa nog, men truppen leds av Förbundets Generalsekreterare Neil Johnson. Det är möjligt att Neil inte kände till vederbörandes förehavanden, trots att dessa redovisats utförligt i massmedia. I så fall bör han som anställd av Svenska Rugbyförbundet omedelbart avskilja sig från detta uppdrag. Kände han till personens bakgrund är det snarare så att han bör lämna sitt uppdrag inom svensk rugby.

Han anställdes av förbundsordförande Madeleine Lahti, känd för de bevingade orden:

Disciplin – Respekt – Integritet – Passion – Solidaritet – Tillsammans

Jag vet inte hur hon ser på Neils agerande avseende Dubai-resan. Blir det total tystnad som vanligt?

Selektiv varseblivning

Det hör till god kutym att alltid skriva positivt i ett rugbyförbunds hemsida och SRF är inget undantag. Efter att ha last Anna-Lena Schwartz skildring av Sveriges insats mot Ukraina i helgen trodde jag att Sverige hade vunnit med c:a 50 – 0. Nja…., på de sista raderna nämns att Sverige förlorade. För att vara exakt med 29 – 8, fyra försök mot ett, där Ukraina hade sin bonuspoäng efter 56”.

ALS höjer klungan till skyarna. De var något bättre än tidigare men förlorade en klunginsättning och började glida bakåt på slutet, t o m mot sex ukrainska spelare. De förlorade fyra inkast och tog ett. De vann således inte sina fasta situationer. Kratsaren Jan-Olof Johansson får också mycket beröm. Som lätt överviktig 33-åring gör han en god insats men jag kan inte hitta där han kom över fördelslinjen och han höll i endast 50”. 5 m. från Ukrainas mållinje kastade han in fel och omedelbart efteråt blev det två felaktiga inkast 15 – 20 m. från den egna mållinjen. Den som gjorde vissa framsteg med bollen i hand var pelaren Marcus Loxvi, fast han började slockna på slutet. Andra ledet inte mycket att säga om. De hoppar bra vid inkasten men är annars tämligen anonyma. Skulle inte skada om båda två kunde lägga på så där 15 kg i muskelmassa. Tredje ledet är vi överens om, att Theo K. gör bra ifrån sig. Tyvärr fick han gå in som pelare efter 50”. Jag är lite kluven när det gäller Anders Nilsson. Han anses vara ”störst av alla” enligt ALS och jag vet inte om jag riktigt kan köpa det. Han är inte så snabb numera och platsar inte längre i Blackheaths A-lag. Och inte heller kommer han särskilt ofta över fördelslinjen. Men han är en skicklig och rutinerad spelare som jag nog skulle behålla i ett riktigt svenskt A-lag.
När det gäller halvbackarna är jag överens med ALS om att Robert P. och Rickard N. gjorde bra ifrån sig. Möjligtvis kunde man dock säga att Roberts många boxkickar i andra halvlek nästan aldrig följdes upp av jagande kolleger, med den påföljden att Ukrainas back-three kunde gå till motanfall. Rickard är en talangfull spelare men jag är inte övertygad om att han skall spela uthalv. Han skapade en briljant öppning som ledde till Sveriges försök, men därefter blev det halvluckor där ingen medspelare befann sig i närheten för att föra anfallet vidare. Det vore en intressant kombination att se honom tillsammans med Erik A. som centrar. Erik kämpade hårt hela dagen och, till skillnad från flera andra, hade den tyngd som krävdes för att stoppa Ukrainas tungviktare. Jag, i likhet med andra, har tidigare berömt Alex Melander, men det är dags att konstatera att han var något av en katastrof som center. Fyra gånger rusade han in i backlinjen för att göra försök á la Milner mot Ungern och fyra gånger tappade han bollen framåt. Den enda gång han fångade bollen överlämnade han den snällt till försvaret. Alex är en utpräglad ytter, man såg vad han kunde uträtta när han fick lite utrymme i matchens sista sekunder. När det gäller Sveriges back-three är det bara att konstatera att de inte befinner sig i närheten av internationell klass.
Jag beklagar att jag kritiserar vissa spelare vid namn, det brukar jag aldrig göra. Men om jag skall ge någon sorts motvikt till ALS solskenshistoria, vi har trots allt vunnit endast en av de senaste 23 matcherna, är jag illa tvungen. Jag vidhåller att högst sex av de uttagna i helgen skulle platsa i Sveriges bästa lag, med kanske tre som startar.

Ukraine 29 Sweden 8

Pretty much as expected. A pretty poor Swedish team lost to a slightly better Ukrainian team. Plenty big runners in the Ukraine pack just too much for the Swedish defence. Swedish halfbacks, Robert P. and Rickard N. had not a bad game and Theo K. was always looking for work. Otherwise not a lot to cheer about. Seems as if no-one can kick a ball in the team either.

Lithuania were down 16 – 14 at halftime to Latvia, but they came away strongly with three tries in the second half to win 33 – 19. Group decider next week when Lithuania meet Ukraine. On today´s showing I would say Lithuania are the better allround team, but none of the five teams in the Conference are particularly impressive. If Sweden had taken the matches seriously they could well have won the Conference and been promoted.But Sweden as we know are building a team for the future, very, very slowly. Under the present regime one win in 23 games.

Laguppställning mot Ukraina

Sverige har fått ihop 21 spelare till Odessa. Saknas: Philip Murphy (skadad), Carl Lindblom (missing in action). Fyra nya jämfört med Ungern, endast flankern Theo Karlsson en förstärkning. Sex avbytare av vilka endast en är back! Av dem som startar är 5 från Hammarby, en vardera från Exiles, Pingvin och Trojan, två från utlandet och 5 från lägre svenska serier. Laget enligt min bedömning är kanske 30 poäng sämre än Exiles eller Pingvin (som i SM-finalen hade drygt 35 Sverigebehöriga spelare på plan).

Ukraine squad

33 players named for the Swedish game. 18 from Olymp Kharkiv and 7 from Odessa. The remaining 8 from half a dozen other clubs. The squad contains 10 newcomers, almost all of whom come from the smaller clubs. The cup finalists supply 75% of the squad (Olymp won 31 – 28). All home based players. A reasonable team but no superstars.

Truppen mot Ukraina

Samma ölmagar, samma spelare ur gärdsgårdsserier, samma B/C nivå, ett fåtal spelare av internationell klass. Ukraina är visserligen svaga, de har förlorat sina fem senaste matcher, men inte kan de förlora mot detta ”svenska” lag?

Sverige har bytt ut fem spelare från Ungernmatchen, antagligen p g a skador eller otillgänglighet:
Oscar Larsson Pingvin
Ehsan Fadaker Hammarby
Tom Milner Ilkley
Jono Edwards Göteborg
Jack Duffy Landsdowne

De som tillkommer kan inte rimligtvis uppfattas som förstärkningar (möjligtvis med ett undantag):

Jonas Zengler Trojan
Adam Christersson Kalmar Södra
Christoffer Andreasson Göteborg
Philip Murphy Trinity College Dublin
Linus Clarén Trojan

Rugby i Ukraina genomgår som sagt en kris; ett inbördeskrig pågår och många av klubbarna härstammar från det militära. I våras förlorade de t ex med 50 poäng mot Schweiz. Men så dåliga är de inte. Jag såg deras cupfinal förra veckan mellan Odessa och Olymp Kharkiv. Backarna mediokra men många stora, starka, atletiska forwards. Det skulle förvåna om inte den svenska klungan blir helt överkörd.
Jag tror att Sveriges bästa lag, som inte skulle omfatta mer än 3 – 4 ur den uttagna truppen mot Ukraina, skulle ha en chans i lördagens match. Men de som de facto representerar Sverige är långt ifrån den nivån.

Lördagens andra match i Conference N 1 bjuder på det baltiska derbyt mellan Lettland och Litauen. Vi har sett hur Lettland med viss möda kunde slå Ungern förra veckan, dock utan att göra försök, medan Litauen gör nu sin entré. De senare har visat sig vara starkare än sina grannar på senare år och det skulle förvåna om de inte vinner och bäddar för en avgörande match mot Ukraina vecka därpå.

Thoughts on team selection

As we wait with bated breath for the team to face Ukraine, perhaps a few comments may be made. The last time Sweden fielded an A/B-team rather than a B/C one was against Luxembourg a year ago. Not the greatest opposition, but the first time we´d won in 20 games.

Since then, when Kanogo has been interviewed, he has expressed himself cryptically about bringing on younger players and building a team for the future. This building process has resulted in Sweden being relegated in Europe and dropping som 30 places in the world rankings.
I ask myself who has given this mandate to Kanogo to develop a team for the future. I have never heard anyone in a position of responsibiity stating that this is the case or noting that the mandate has been singularly unsuccessful. If I were in charge of Swedish rugby I would have been doing everything to ensure that Sweden stayed at the Trophy-level or that we did everything possible to get back up to that level. In actual fact we left the Trophy-level like lambs, losing every game, and at the Conference 1 level last year we finished fourth out of five, winning the one game against Luxemburg. And now in the 2017-2018 Conference season we have another, narrow, win against the team which will almost certainly be relegated to Conference 2 next Summer.
Turning to the actual team selected last week it is interesting to look at the process of bringing on younger players. The pack had for instance three starters over 30 and one just under. It was also obvious that at least three of the forwards were nowhere nearly fit enough to play international sport, all of them with protruding bellies. It makes a mockery of Swedish rugby to suggest that these players should be in the elite representing their country. Did you see any comparable stomachs in the Pingvin – Exiles finals? No, neither did I.
I have already suggested it is unbelievable that the chairman of a club, who is also sole selector and trainer of the national team should pick six of his own players as starters in the Swedish team. The club of course finished a poor fourth in Allsvenskan which only had five teams. Only two other players from the Swedish top division were regarded as being good enough to make the best XV.
In any other rugby country I am convinced that there would be an outcry if people abused their positions in this way, but in Sweden everyone seems delighted that we managed to scrape home against a very poor team.

Has anything positive come out of the policy of ”bringing on younger players”?. In my subjective opinion there are very few good young players who have come forward in the last couple of years, which is worrying for the continuation of the sport. Having said that, the picture is not all black. Three teenagers involved in the Hungary game are some of the most promising newcomers in recent years. I refer to Alex Melander, Rickard Nunstedt och Theo Karlsson although I think two of them played out of position. Let´s hope the U18 and U20 efforts can find a few more.

Ungern 6 – Lettland 12

Fyra straffar mot två såg Lettland ta hem segern efter en tuff match där regnet inte hjälpte passningsspelet. Ungern ledde 6 – 3 i halvtid men Lettland tog ett fastare grepp i andra halvlek och tog nog en rättvis seger. Bra resultat för Sverige då Ungern knappast slår Ukraina eller Litauen i sina återstående matcher. Sverige har ju redan två poäng.

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